Romney Hits the Jackpot in Las Vegas Fund-raiser

BY David Chalian  May 17, 2011 at 8:46 AM EDT

Mitt Romney; photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney greets volunteers at his National Call Day fund-raiser in Las Vegas. Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

For any presidential candidate to raise $10.25 million in one concentrated day of fund-raising is an impressive feat.

Of course, Mitt Romney’s haul from his Las Vegas call-day exists, for the time being, in a vacuum, without any other figures for comparison. And that was precisely the campaign’s goal as it set out to boast financial prowess, intimidate the opposition and build momentum for Romney’s second attempt at winning the White House.

Jonathan Martin of POLITICO reports that Romney fund-raisers are suggesting his overall quarterly haul could be in the $40 million range when reports are filed with the Federal Election Commission in July.

Martin also notes that Romney refused to rule out pouring some of his personal fortune into the race. In his last campaign, he put roughly $42 million of his own money into his failed bid for the nomination.

At the conclusion of his first fund-raising quarter in 2007, Romney reported raking in $23.4 million. (Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama each soaked up about $26 million in that first quarter in 2007.)

For Romney to nearly double his show of financial strength at the start of the race four years later will send a very strong message that despite his flaws as a candidate, he’ll have the cash for the long haul.

DOUBLE TROUBLE

There comes a time in the course of nearly every political campaign when a candidate is required to perform some level of damage control. But it’s usually not a good sign when that moment comes less than a week after announcing a run.

That’s exactly the situation Newt Gingrich found himself in Monday as the former House speaker defended comments he made Sunday in an interview with David Gregory on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Gingrich criticized a House GOP proposal to reform Medicare as “too big a jump” and stood by his past support for requiring Americans to buy health insurance.

“I agree that all of us have a responsibility to help pay for health care,” said Gingrich. “I’ve said consistently, we ought to have some requirement that you either have health insurance, or you post a bond, or in some way you indicate you’re going to be held accountable.”

Asked by Gregory if that was akin to the individual mandate Gingrich responded, “It’s a variation on it.”

Realizing the harm those remarks were likely to cause, Gingrich and his nascent presidential campaign launched a major blitz Monday to neutralize the impact on the first day of a weeklong, 17-city tour of Iowa.

Gingrich released a YouTube clip declaring his opposition to the mandate included in the health care overhaul enacted last year by President Obama.

“I am for the repeal of Obamacare and I am against any effort to impose a federal mandate on anyone because it is fundamentally wrong and I believe unconstitutional,” said Gingrich.

The former Georgia congressman also accused his critics of ignoring his long-stated position on the health reform law. “I’ve for two years gone around the country making speeches about Obamacare. I’ve said over and over, ‘We should repeal it,’” Gingrich said in an interview with Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson. “And then people to go from all of that body of evidence to say, ‘Yeah, but for 25 seconds yesterday, I thought you said X,’ that’s beyond gotcha.”

The trouble for Gingrich didn’t end there, though. He also came under fire from fellow Republicans for his comments regarding the House GOP’s plan to revamp Medicare by privatizing it for future retirees.

“I don’t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering,” Gingrich told Gregory. “I don’t think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate.”

The architect of the House GOP blueprint, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, responded Monday, “With allies like that, who needs the left?”

“Hardly is that social engineering and radical,” the chairman of the House Budget Committee said in a radio interview. “What’s radical is kicking the can down the road.”

Gingrich also took heat from a potential competitor for the GOP nomination, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

“For several years, Newt Gingrich has deserved a lot of credit for thinking through a great many issues in a serious and interesting fashion,” Santorum said in a statement. “But his criticism of Congressman Paul Ryan’s Medicare reform plan yesterday was a big departure from Speaker Gingrich’s often sound policy proposals. Furthermore, it was a departure from his support of Paul Ryan’s plan just a few weeks ago.”

Rush Limbaugh and other conservative talkers and writers weighed in as well. “Folks, don’t ask me to explain this. There is no explanation,” Limbaugh said of Gingrich’s criticism of Rep. Ryan’s plan.

If Gingrich is unable to pivot quickly from this moment back to other issues, then his next few days in Iowa could end up feeling a lot longer than even he expected them to be.

TRUMP BOWS OUT

As you know by now, Donald Trump has decided to stick with his lucrative “Celebrity Apprentice” TV gig and not make a run for the highest office in the land.

The rise and fall of Trump’s charade candidacy has much more to say about the state of the modern media than it does about the shape of the Republican 2012 field. His celebrity and rhetoric easily distracted the media. (It’s also true that the press played a role in driving him from the race after exposing him to a new level of scrutiny when he demanded to be taken seriously.)

There’s no doubt the race for the GOP nomination lost a colorful character Monday, but the press also gained an opportunity to reflect on its approach when the next celebrity candidate enters the fray.

BADGER ENCORE

POLITICO’s Mike Allen reports that former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson is jumping into the race for the U.S. Senate seat to be left vacant by retiring Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl.

Thompson served as Wisconsin’s Republican governor for 14 years from 1987-2001. His state-based welfare reform policies served as a model for the national welfare reform legislation passed by former President Bill Clinton and Speaker Gingrich in the mid-1990s. He also served as former President George W. Bush’s Health and Human Services Secretary and made a lackluster bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2007.

Thompson’s readiness to throw his hat in the ring is a clear signal that Rep. Ryan is likely to announce that he plans to stick with his House Budget Committee chairmanship rather than make the leap to the open Senate race.

Several Democrats are eying what’s sure to be a marquee race, including Rep. Tammy Baldwin, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and former Congressman Steve Kagen. Former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold has not yet declared his intentions.

For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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